The conservation status of Mediterranean cetaceans has been a source of concern for many years. This was reflected in the 1991 Action Plan of the Barcelona Convention and in the global action plans for cetacean conservation published by the IUCN (World Conservation Union) in 1988, 1989, 1994 and 2003.

In 2006 the IUCN Red List Authority and ACCOBAMS co-organised a workshop to assess the status of all cetacean populations in the Mediterranean and Black Seas. Of the 12 'units' assessed, one was proposed to qualify for Critically Endangered, five for Endangered and two for Vulnerable. The other four were considered Data Deficient, meaning that there was inadequate information to assess their extinction risk.

A summary of the assessment results is given in the following table:

 

 

The listing criteria above have been fully adopted by the Parties to ACCOBAMS in 2007.

The Parties to ACCOBAMS were also urged to implement measures to address the threats to cetacean populations assessed according to the list above, with particular regard to critically endangered and endangered populations, and to update their national Red Lists. Concerned Parties were urged to pay specific, immediate attention to the conservation of killer whales, Mediterranean short-beaked common
dolphins, Mediterranean sperm whales and Black Sea and northern Aegean Sea harbour porpoises.

For more information please see:

Reeves R., Notarbartolo di Sciara G. (compilers and editors). 2006. The status and distribution of cetaceans in the Black Sea and Mediterranean Sea. IUCN Centre for Mediterranean Cooperation, Malaga, Spain. 137 pp. (2.4 Mb)

 

Conservation of short-beaked common dolphins

Once one of the most common cetacean species in the Mediterranean, short-beaked common dolphins have declined dramatically in the past 30-40 years.

Although common dolphins were considered relatively abundant in much of the Mediterranean until recently, a sudden, large-scale population decline has occurred, and today common dolphins survive only in relatively small portions of their former Mediterranean range. In some areas these dolphins have become rare or completely absent.

The main threats appear to be represented by the reduced availability of key prey caused by overfishing and by habitat degradation. Other factors that may have contributed to the species’ decline in the region include contamination by man-made chemicals, potentially resulting in immunosuppression and/or reproductive impairment, and incidental mortality in fishing gear, especially gill nets.

Conservation problems for this population have been recognised since the 1970s...

The UNEP Mediterranean Action Plan (1975) recommended strong conservation measures

The 2000-2010 IUCN Action Plan for the world’s cetaceans noted that common dolphins had declined dramatically in the central and eastern Mediterranean and stressed that conservation action was urgently needed

In 2003 the Mediterranean population of common dolphins was classified as Endangered in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals

In 2004, the Agreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans in the Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea and contiguous Atlantic area (ACCOBAMS) presented a 90-page Conservation Plan for Mediterranean common dolphins, that was welcomed at the 2nd Annual Meeting of the Parties

In 2005, the Mediterranean population of common dolphins was included in Appendix I and II of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS)

... but still no significant change has occurred and no relevant action has been taken to aid the recovery of common dolphins in the region.

 

An overview of the legislative instruments relevant to the conservation of common dolphins and/or protection of their habitat can be found in the following contribution:

Owen, D. 2004. Legal instruments of relevance to the conservation of common dolphins in the Mediterranean Sea. Annex 1. Pp. 61-85 In: G. Bearzi, G. Notarbartolo di Sciara, R.R. Reeves, A. Cañadas & A. Frantzis. Conservation Plan for short-beaked common dolphins in the Mediterranean Sea. Agreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans of the Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea and Contiguous Atlantic Area (ACCOBAMS).

 

Conservation of common bottlenose dolphins

Experts participating in a regional Red List workshop organized in 2006 agreed that Mediterranean bottlenose dolphins qualify as Vulnerable according to the IUCN Red List criteria (Reeves & Notarbartolo di Sciara, 2006).

Past and present threats include (a) intentional killing and extermination campaigns conducted until at least the early 1960s in portions of the basin, (b) recent and ongoing incidental mortality in fishing gear, (c) overfishing of prey populations, and (d) habitat degradation including environmental contamination by chemical pollutants and disturbance caused by marine traffic.

Mediterranean bottlenose dolphins are:

listed in Appendix II of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS)

listed in Appendix II (Strictly Protected Fauna Species) of the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (Bern Convention)

included in Council Directive No 92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992 on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora (Habitats Directive); as such bottlenose dolphins may benefit from special areas of conservation established for Annex I habitats

fully protected by the Agreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans in the Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea and contiguous Atlantic area (ACCOBAMS).

 

An overview of the legislative instruments relevant to the conservation of bottlenose dolphins and/or protection of their habitat can be found in the following article:

Bearzi G., Fortuna C.M., Reeves R.R. 2008. Ecology and conservation of common bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus in the Mediterranean Sea. Mammal Review. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2907.2008.00133.x (307 Kb)